Ice Cream knows no borders !

Donegal-Tyrone border - it's a sweet place to be

Ice Cream knows no borders !

Enjoying their ice cream break, from left, Aiyana McGinley and Grace Quinn with manager of the ice cream parlour in Clady, Carla Mackle

Grab a napkin. It's gonna get gloriously messy.

A new-wave of ice cream parlours at either end of a four mile stretch along the Donegal-Tyrone border are certainly whipping up a new Game of Cones frenzy.

To get the inside scoop one had to visit the coolest places for a frozen treat - Clady and Strabane.

Even after applying all Covid-related and socially distancing rules, you’re still spoiled for choice at a couple of very unique outlets.

These outlets do not only make creamy ice creams of the highest quality, but they also offer something extra to make the experience really memorable.

Mackles Ice Cream parlour on the Urney Road is on the Cloughfin side of the Clady bridge and technically in Donegal but it's main customer base is drawn from the locality - at the moment.

It's a former shop and before that a petrol attendant's office. Like any good ice cream outlet, it's covered in a multitude of colours that turns it into what looks like a giant block of ice cream!

It's run by the Mackle family with Carla Mackle the manager at this location. The family have been in the ice cream business for years running a parlour in Monaghan and Dungannon and as their reputation grew so did the business.

Her father also runs a petrol station so when he acquired a station at this location, it was decided to establish another ice cream outlet too.

“My sister Jacqueline, the oldest of seven sisters, developed the business and made it bigger. We're all involved; it's been part of our lives growing up.”

Carla and her hard-working assistants, local girls, Aiyana McGinley and Grace Quinn, take great delight in explaining the variety of treats on offer in a multitude of colours that have to be seen to be believed ...honeycomb, mint, bubblegum, strawberry, chocolate, Oreo and so on.

Sine the place opened last July there's been a steady stream of customers from both sides of the border and no doubt when travel restrictions ease, that will only grow.

“I know a stand alone ice cream parlour in a rural setting is unusual but the response has been great, a lot better than we expected. It's become a place for a family day out for many when everything is in lockdown,” she adds.

The parlour is open until 10pm every night, seven days a week.

From Nessie to Messy

It's quite possible that we are living in the golden age of ice cream innovation and if proof of that was needed next stop the Lifford Road Strabane near where the infamous Camel's Hump checkpoint used to be.

The very notion of what should be placed on a cone (or stick, or between cookies), old-school parlours learning new tricks, new-school parlours trying to remind you of old-school ones all comes into focus at Messy Moe's.

Maria McGarrigle and Beth Kelleher with Jessica Kerlin at this very unique bus stop!

This is ice cream parlour with a difference because it's based in an old double decker bus that used to take tourists around Loch Ness on trips to spot the monster before ending up in Galway where it was used to train people to drive such a vehicle!

It's been a husband and wife team, Phelim and Jessica Kerlin's dream to open a parlour for years so when the opportunity came along they took it.

Phelim operates a successful Mr Whippy ice cream van so when lockdown came and things got quieter they decided to develop the double decker and from September last it has been taking shape piece by piece.

It was stripped out and a 50s style seating and look developed on the 32-seat upper deck with preparation and a take away service downstairs.

Nothing is going to waste as the couple see the potential of the bus being a tourist attraction and with it being so close to the famous 'Tinnies' statues, it's a natural stop off.

They're even planning photo sessions for the children sitting in the driver's seat!

“Our children, Alex (14), Josie (11) and James (9) were a big inspiration as was my father Paul O'Neill, a former ice cream man himself and father-in-law, John Kerlin.

“Kitting everything out turned into a real labour of love so we hope when lockdown is over more people will come across from Donegal and enjoy what's on offer. The reaction from everyone has been great, adults love it as much as the kids.”

Messy Moe's is also open seven days a week until 9pm each night.

Ice cream is not just for summer days when it's hot outside. In my opinion, ice cream can—and should—be enjoyed year round, even when there's frost on the ground and you've got a fire going in the fireplace.

So when 'normality' returns and we've only got to think about Brexit, the Border, Article 50, the EU Customs Union, WTO rules, further agreements, customs controls, declarations, checks, tariffs, quotas and different VAT arrangements in operation, the one thing that will see us through will be ice cream!

You know what they say, you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream and that’s kind of the same thing.

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